So I guess we’re going back 18 years to talk about a boy I dated for six months in 2002. “We” being me and the deeper, more subconscious part of myself. The part of myself which owns and guards this chapter from removal, perusal, and perhaps from perspective. Its unresolved story fades off into empty pages and only glimpses of the scenes within now occasionally percolate to the surface. Nonetheless, I’m aware that I carry it with me.
I carry it because he was my first love, because I wasn’t able to comprehend it, because it drifted for years after we broke up, because the first cut is the deepest, but perhaps mainly because I never did say everything that I wanted to say. I suffered from a chronic inability to verbalise my thoughts coherently. I maybe even still do. Writing is one thing, when you can pause, rethink, reorder, and rewrite. Saying the right thing at the right time in the right way is another skill entirely. Even knowing what you want to say in the present is a challenge.
Half of the problem with Duncan was that there was so much I only figured out in retrospect. Be that days, weeks, or years. I knew I loved him. I remember whispering it to him when he was asleep. I told him I loved him in emails and chats. But I don’t remember saying it directly, out loud. I must’ve done, surely, at some point, but I don’t remember. I don’t remember ever being confident enough in myself to be that open. I was still just a lost kid who had a thousand issues to work through. And he was warm, and considered, and honest, and pure. He wrote. He shone. He must’ve seen something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. And he was the most beautiful boy in the world.
He had an inner-child, which I definitely didn’t, and I remember being thrown by it sometimes. He would find amusement in things I wouldn’t even clock or he’d be excited by something I couldn’t grasp. I think I felt challenged by these incidentals, despite the fact that they were ‘him’ and were undoubtedly part of the reason I loved him. The carefree moments were part of the magic but the magic seemed dangerous. I simultaneously wanted to be whole with him and safe from feeling. I think I used the challenge as an excuse, as a self-defeating rationale for not trying harder, for not clinging on.
I didn’t, of course, have any idea quite how deeply I felt or how it would shape everything thereafter. Our lives would continue to intersect, either purposefully or through shared friends, and that continued for years. I was never confident that he loved me back. I really hate to think he ever wondered the same in return. The fact that we were close at times in the period after should allay my fears. We chose to remain in each others’ orbits, until inevitably we didn’t. He got married to a nice dood many years ago now, and I can’t imagine I’ve been as omnipresent in his consciousness as he’s been in mine. For the most part, I’m glad of that. If he’s happy, I’m happy about it.
Love and pain dissolve into the soup of our souls, and the yearning is long gone now, but still, I tend to think this boy occupies a greater space in my psyche than perhaps he should. I never moved on to quite the same extent. Only occasionally do I ponder it these days, although perhaps I’ve done so more this year. I’ll remember a freeze frame from camping at Reading, or breakfast in Tranent, or in his halls in Glasgow being held more tightly than I have ever been held. For me, it remains the most “whole” relationship that I’ve ever had. Out of all the relationships that followed, one came close, but I’ve never been haunted in quite the same way by the memory of anyone else. Despite feeling like I probably couldn’t have made him as happy as he seems to be today, I do wish I’d been better, that I’d given myself a chance.
So I say now, directly to the Dunx in my head, that I loved you more than the real you will ever know. I’m sorry for not being more present, in the moment, at the time. I’m sorry that I communicated poorly and I’m sorry if you were unsure how I felt. I’m sorry if I made you hurt. It’s of little relevance to you now, and this isn’t meant to be found, but without any expectation of ever speaking again, it needed to be said. I’ve carried you with me. And I’ll carry you with me.
Graham's blog: politics, poetry, and introspection